Seems like every year I get the urge … or should I say, feel the necessity … to travel out to Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP. 2015 was no different and so we planned a trip out there, which we coupled with some family time snowboarding/skiing in the nearby vicinity. Being that it was still winter out there, or so we thought, I originally had plans to rent out a small snow coach for the day. The very mild winter of 2014-2015 changed those plans as snow coach touring and snowmobiling season ended up closing very early. Quick … we need to execute Plan B. So we made reservations in Gardiner, just outside of the parks iconic entrance arch in Yellowstone NP. That road stays open year-round, as residents use it for travel to and from Cooke City. It wasn’t long before we spotted our first wildlife – a beautiful pronghorn antelope.
We expected to see them, along with lots of bison, elk, and mule deer. What we didn’t expect to see as readily was the bighorn sheep. As a matter of fact, I had never (believe it or not) seen bighorn sheep within the park boundaries! So I was a bit thrilled. I usually associate these fabulous rams when I make my way into Rocky Mountain NP.
It wasn’t just a fluke sighting either … we found a gathering of several dozen rams.
Though not many tourists come to Yellowstone during the winter months, even a mild one, we still didn’t want to start a “ram jam”, so we parked down the road and hiked in to where they were … paying particular attention to not encroach on their territory or break any distance regulations.
Everything was going great until that moment … when the “big guy” came around a corner unexpectantly. I backed up a bit and turned to assess the situation … snow and ice covered landscape and a rocky ledge behind me. I managed to back out and put distance back between us.
While the other rams of various ages and hierarchy continued to feed, this guy almost seemed to serve as the sentinel … you know, the lookout for trouble in the area.
As they grazed in the grasses, they would occasionally look up and give me that “Vogue” look. 🙂
I was impressed with their majestic look as they stood proudly, making their way within the group. It was amazing to see the differences in their horns … or their curls. You can see the signs of wear & tear on the senior guys and I couldn’t help but wonder about their story … what events they had been through for those “scars”.
Being that it was late winter, they still had such nice coats and they were quite amicable with each other. That will change as the year progresses towards the eventual rut season, when they will fight for hierarchy and that important status within the harem of females.
It was so beautiful as they laid down on the landscape and stared off into the distance … with the bushes near then and trees, mountains, and snow off in the distance.
Yes, it was fascinating to watch and yes, I felt truly honored to be in their presence and thrilled with the naturalness in their behavior as I clicked away. 🙂
Wish I could click my heels and be back there right now. Rest assured though, we’ll be back and ready for more.
Of course, there’s more to Yellowstone NP that the pronghorn and bighorn sheep, so stay tuned for the next post with more wildlife, sights, and stories.
© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography